Minimum Wage by Alex Tremblay-McGaw

A week or two ago Alex had an in-class writing assignment in her high school junior English class that required her to write a detailed description of an experience from her weekend and I like the results so much, I asked her to let me post it! And she's agreed.

photo by Kathryn LeBlanc

Minimum Wage

Who ever knew that garbage could have different stenches. It can. And the heterogeneous mixture of popcorn, candy, sodas and various hot foods has a distinct smell. The small doses of jalapeños and their liquid surprisingly contribute significantly. But what is more appalling is that the ice cream smells. It reeks of something resembling vomit and every time I lean over to scoop some out, I hold my breath.

My weight falls to the balls of my feet and then to my toes.The cold, hard and sticky counter takes some of my burden too. A moment of relief comes and the pain drains away like soppy water swirling down the drain. And while the blender roars, all of the chatter becomes a hum. Interrupted. The two women with insignificant and pedestrian faces stare at me. Their big doe-like eyes waiting, expecting, diagnosing me. "Yes. I will tell my manager about the price of your f@#king tea."

I am a quiet lion.

--Alex Tremblay-McGaw


kathryn pringle, Andrea Rexilius, Erín Moure and Chus Pato

The Place: ATA on Valencia Street, San Francisco
The Time: Sunday afternoon, 5pm, November 11th
The Who: Small Press Traffic's presentation of a trio of three fabulous readers/writers plus a reading from the work of Chus Pato
The What: Some of what you missed, or didn't, and get to enjoy here

kathryn l. pringle from fault tree (2012, Omnidawn)

i’m not saying this to scare you but goodbye.

first goodbye.
and then
examine attachment (in seconds, s)
akin to


if recognition is destroyed, what then of attachment?

whether my body is rigid, stippled, perpendicular
or not, i am a floater

the precision of my rigid body in motion
has been mathematically proven
to be equal to the accuracy of my body at rest

in this place, that is

at this time

that is

or is

you will see it as
my own tenacious grip
on a silver cord

first, though

the snow fell up to thirty inches, melted ten, and then we had ice
my transistor was hemorrhaging
exposed wires bleeding
giving off heat
in the form of steam

i’m inclined to say that the wires were bleeding yellow and green ooze but it was really blood like any other kind of blood.  which is to say it was red. RED.

even better, and this is true, i was opened up and spewing (the transistor) on the frozen sidewalk in front of the hospital.

this was yesterday.
yesterday i was alive.
today always happens and so it feels like it never really happens because i am so well-versed in today and how it goes

you wake up or you wake up

most people wake up

kathryn l. pringle is an American poet living in Oakland, Ca. She is the author of fault tree (winner of Omindawn’s 1st/2nd book prize selected by CD Wright), RIGHT NEW BIOLOGY (Heretical Texts/Factory School), The Stills (Duration Press), and Temper and Felicity are lovers.(TAXT). Some of her poems can be found inDenver QuarterlyFence, Phoebehorse less review, and other journals. Her work can also be found in the anthologies Conversations at the Wartime Cafe: A Decade of War (WODV Press), I’ll Drown My Book: Conceptual Writing by Women (Les Figues), and forthcoming in The Sonnets: Rewriting Shakespeare (Nightboat Books). She received an MA and MFA from San Francisco State University.


Andrea Rexilius

Fifth Residence: Territory

Emphasis impels them. They belong to a clearly defined category of refuge. But what are they doing in that cottage? What are their thoughts, their sorrows? What is the merit of those who came after them? Everything hinges on distance. The illusion found in plant or animal which transfigures community. They are terrestrial. They hold to clouds.

This is the interview of their final crossing. 

What is the emanation of the image?
Is its gaze representative of air or water?
When did you first appear?
Is this a translation of appearance or an example?
Are you living in one season or many?
How does an outline show these distances?
Do you regret being not human or human?
What warrants the use of juxtaposition?
Who is speaking to you on that hill?
Are you in any way a substance or a color?
What revelation is in it?
How would you define a glacier?
How many times have you crossed this river? 


I shouted at them and as the llamas came down the hill, I went up toward them.
I had no desire to leave that hill.
I could wound eighteen men before I could be touched.
I asked them to take me across the river.
I stood scanning the landscape with a telescope.
I was so far from the border.
I might as well fire my gun.

Andrea Rexilius is the author of Half of What They Carried Flew Away (Letter Machine, 2012) and To Be Human Is To Be A Conversation (Rescue Press, 2011).  She currently teaches BA & MFA courses at Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics and manages the JKS Summer Writing Program.

Erín Moure 

Erín began her reading by sharing the work of Chus Pato, a Galician poet Moure has translated. I had never heard of Pato but fell immediately for her work. Here is a poem from the Ghosts section of Pato's book SecESSION:


I know the nothingness extends to the horizon, where my breath shatters. The nothingness is my mouth, through the mouth the tremblings of the flesh enter. Something, someone contracts my mouth extends nothingness, enunciates the unpronounceable, a subject, I. Something, someone, emits a prohibition.

My position in the desert is that of someone who remains outside the pack, outside the flag, outside the placenta that makes community life possible, its reproduction. I don't know if others share my fate. Something, someone, every day, every thousandth of a second emits prohibition.

What politics, the one that germinates from the poem, from the drive of language, from a subject that can't be restrained and unpronounceable extends (psyche, life) to the ends of the Earth, conceives itself as one ghost among many and assembles itself in the multiple organs of the territory, up to the finisterrae where dreams fracture, ideologies, pneuma, the dead? What politics, outside the pack, outside the flag, where breath fractures? (51)

and from a poem called 


thus a poem is not composed of fragments but of ruins that are remainders of an earlier collapse or of one still to come, or that never happened, that are ghosts and despite this memorable  (90).

Moure then read from her book The Unmemntioable, a title that appears on the back cover. On the front, one finds:

a BOOK, containing poems, a filched Moleskine, a correspondence, a sketch, an impredication, a vanished KOCTbOJI, an object (her white pentagon), Str. Plantelor, a casino, a dog with a headache, and sundry philosophic remarks. 

The back cover informs us:

In crossing borders of culture and memory, there is an unmemntioable spacing. So E.S (Elisa of Little Theaters and O Resplandor) sits in a flat on M.V. Street in Bucharest. E.M. arrives in another part of the Romanian capital. Not from Canada but from burying her mother's ashes in Ukraine, in the village where her maternal family was erased by war and time. But E.S. was also in Ukraine. There, watching E.M through the trees in a downpour, an idea came to her: she would use E.M. to research the nature of Experience.

Note: I've done my best to accommodate the "special characters" within the constraints of blogger!

Excerpts from Erín Moure’s The Unmemntioable

Great fragment fallen to abyss and trees for tumulos cut down, pears, apples, forest birches. Therein lies the profound correspondence between the being and the thought.

Who they is. A Möbius problem. The woman in the village, too young to have witnessed, saying: “Ukranians sent by Stalin built houses where the old had burned.” And the official story, said awkwardly. “Stalin sent the Poles to Poland.”

Grove of trees:

Asile. Asyljm.
(we never touched or hurt the graves)
the empty grove
(we never touched or hurt the trees)

(I don’t know why they did not come back to tend them)

Volove, Bibrka, forest, (Betżec)

Insert a map of culture here.   [              ]

Je suis moi-même une machine à écrire.

“…Ukranian,” said my mother.
“Polish,” said my uncle, older.
“But Mom is Ukranian,” she insisted.
“Polish was what they taught in school!”
“Austrian," said my grandfather, gazing out at the soldiers’ road.

“In secret on the mountain I tried to read the letters, for my parents worried awake at night at what they told.”
“One alphabet I could not read, they did not teach it in Canadian school.”

If only I could go backward, undo time. The trees out of narrow woods, and snows. Madre, matka, matyi, mama.

Yet to these shaking things that are my mysteries
my mother’s answer still holds:
“we must press forward to the schools.”

She sits up in bed and I embrace her. Later we are awake all night together one last time, me in the chair beside her, speaking ludicrously of banquets, of pyrohy filled with sour cabbage and mushrooms, waiting.

Across all is barren (ligature)

Cor de branco. remolacha. bors. 


This morning when I wake up from my dream of cabbage, I open my notebook and—my notes have vanished. It looks like my notebook, a black Moleskine bent down at the corner, with a page saved from 24 fun in the back pocket: the Bucharest theatre schedule from August 1, its top scrunched.

But my notes are gone. Where once there were pages filled with my musings on the infinite, there is only this:

“There is a phantasmal poetry and a poetry of the seeing self. There is a miniaturized poetry and an aggrandizing poetry. And there is the poetry that doesn’t want to be found. Stop desiring me! I have nothing to reveal. My withdrawal leaves no hole in the panorama.” E.S. to E. M., Bucareşti, August 12.

This is crossed out, and there is, added in a hand not unlike E.S.’s:

Je vous avise de brûler la mémoire des cartes et de penser pour vous-même   (49-63)

Restless Montrealer Erín Moure has published seventeen books of poetry plus a volume of essays, My Beloved Wager. She also translates poetry from French, Spanish, Galician  (galego), and Portuguese, with twelve books translated of work by poets as diverse as Nicole Brossard, Andrés Ajens, Louise Dupré, Rosalía de Castro, Chus Pato and Fernando Pessoa. Her work has received the Governor General’s Award, the Pat Lowther Memorial Award, the A.M. Klein Prize (twice), and was a three-time finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize. Her latest works are The Unmemntioable (http://www.houseofanansi.com/The-Unmemntioable-P1719.aspx andhttp://roverarts.com/2012/04/dont-speak/), an investigation into subjectivity and the nature of experience, in western Ukraine and on a South Peace homestead in the north of Alberta, and Secession (Zat-So), her fourth translation of internationally acclaimed Galician poet Chus Pato.


In Memory of Anne-Marie Albiach, 1937-2012

                              ...in the number
                                                  such equation again would find
                              nevertheless previous agreements;

But this POINT especially void of color determines the urgency
such precise notation at the breath's trajectory/deviation:
         a rhythm under which the deformation of bodies
would mimic a subtraction of reflection
                                              --Anne-Marie Albiach, Mezza Voce

Anne-Marie Albiach in 1971; photo courtesy of Norma Cole

Last week during one of my brief and rare visits to Facebook, I saw a post from Kevin Killian that saddened me as it passed on the news from Norma Cole that Anne-Marie Albiach had just died.  Years ago--it must  have been 1997--Dodie Bellamy and Kevin hosted the Small Press Traffic 60th birthday party/reading for Albiach who remained in her apartment on the outskirts of Paris. I attended this event and while my memory of who was there and what was read is foggy, Kevin, our great community diarist (among many other things!) had written the event up and posted it to the SUNY Buffalo Poetics List. Thanks to the list archive, Kevin found his report and he is generously allowing me to post it here:

This is Kevin Killian.  Today's the 60th birthday of the French poet
Anne-Marie Albiach and last night here in San Francisco was the Albiach
tribute organized by Dodie Bellamy and Small Press Traffic.  I was there,
in the theater space at New College, and I know you're all curious, how did
it turn out?

Successfully I think.  OK there were a few glitches here and there.  Kush
the marvelous videographer failed to show up, and earlier in the week Small
Press Traffic's office was rifled and the microphone stolen.  However a
tape recorder was available and thus Dodie can prove the event really did
take place, documentation being "everything."  Norma Cole began the evening
by sketching out some of the salient turns in Albiach's career and showed
us a double portrait.  One photo was of the young Albiach in 1969, a glamor
portrait a la George Hurrell on the occasion of the publication of "Etat."
We were all struck by how much she (AMA) resembled the young Katherine Ross
in Curtis Harrington's "Games."  Then another kind of portrait, Jean
Daive's imaginative portrait of AMA done solely through her punctuation.
Cole then read from Albiach's "Gradiva," and read part of AMA's translation
of Louis Zukoksky's "A"-9.  Barbara Guest rose and read what sounded like a
new poem, a "Reverie" for AMA.  Benjamin Hollander combined parts of two
previous essays to create an atmosphere, a theatrical atmosphere which
effectively illustrated what he called the "nocturnal" aspect of Albiach's
writing (and its effect on the reader).  Michael Palmer read an essay
reminiscing on visiting (or trying to pay a visit to) AMA in Paris, she
wasn't home, so, he said, the absence of the non-encounter lived up to the
highest expectations of both parties, and then he read "Five Easy Poems,"
dedicated to AMA.  Mary Margaret Sloan spoke briefly on the influence AMA
has had over the years on the work of North American woman poets, and read
from AMA's book "Mezza Voce."  Cole Swensen read from "'Vocative Figure.'"
Then everyone turned to the cake, the "gateau," and tore that sucker to
shreds (or crumbs, I suppose).  There was much mingling, wine, and etc., if
only Steve Carll were still on this list he could tell you all the names of
the poets and artists who attended.

I thought it would be a case of preaching to the converted but there were
many there who had apparently never heard of Albiach, and all the copies of
"Mezza Voce" were quickly sold out, attesting to the event's success as,
well, a kind of promotion for the glamorous, reclusive diva of
Neuilly-sur-Seine.  However not all were so easily persuaded and one famous
poet afterwards was overheard murmuring that she still disliked Albiach's
writing and what was all the fuss about anyhow.  This made me think of
Rachel Levitsky's post about when "the dominant obliterates the
marginal, the dominant will always assert itself"though I can't piece out
how it applies exactly.

Anyhow, thanks to all who worked on this event behind the scenes, in front
of the podium, in the audience, and thanks to all the US and Canadian poets
who signed the series of tacky Hallmark cards for AMA's birthday, which
were delivered to her ahead of time and which stunned and surprised her and
made her weep with this kind of absent French pleasure.

Sometime after this birthday celebration and thanks to Norma Cole, I had the great fortune to meet both Claude Royet-Journoud and Anne-Marie in Paris, or rather, Claude in his Left Bank apartment and Anne-Marie in her Neuilly-Sur-Seine flat. Anne-Marie was a grand dame. I think I only actually got to see her because Claude cleared the way; he must have phoned her. She was hard to get a hold of and reclusive.  After falling in love with the Arion Press book about it, I also tried, on this same trip, to get permission to visit Le Desert de Retz, an 18th Century French Folly Garden long closed to the public, but failed to convince the official gate-keepers!

But I did have the great pleasure and large experience of meeting these two amazing French literary giants. When I arrived at Anne-Marie's I might have been wearing jeans and a fabulous pair of Spanish black shoes with three superfluous buckles; they went with everything, casual and less so.  Oh, how I wish I still had those shoes! Anne-Marie pretended she didn't speak any English. I had been working on my French conversational skills by joining a little conversation group that included Fran Herndon and a young man whose name I don't remember. I recall Fran telling me to speak, to open my mouth. I was quiet and probably mostly listened. There is nothing like the shame of trying to speak another language with people who know you are trying. Somehow once in France, one is forced to give in to shame and to reach beyond it, to speak.

But Anne-Marie. I think she enjoyed my flailings and failures in French. I remember her smoking. Maybe she even had one of those black slender cigarette holders that Marlene Dietrich used in the Blue Angel. Albiach's smoky apartment was full of books and a divan, or chaise lounge. Maybe it was merely her bed covered in velvet, china cups strewn about.  I wasn't sure if I'd imagined these details but in a recent email Norma confirmed them.  In the 1990s I had fallen in love with Albiach's work: all that glorious white space, words as so many discrete shards.  Her voice and presence will be missed.

Here's a poem inspired by Albiach that was published in my book making mARKs (a+bend 2000). I offer it here in fond remembrance and appreciation.

departure: albiach


Below are some links to announcements of Albiach's death, in French disparition:

Le Monde article here

De Contrabas: Literair weblog post  here

Jacket2 notice here


Keats, de Beauvoir, and Niagra: Three from Gillian Osborne

Three Poems from Gillian Osborne

Secret Messages to Keats

My dear Keats,
perhaps at one time you were

the subject or a Sparrow
My Brother
awoke and found it
before my Window

nothing startles me

I take part in its existence

beyond has a better opinion of me
than I deserve

My dear Keats,
Would we were
a throng
of spiritual Acorns
ethereal Pigs
and not rattlesnaked
into any more
for what is a squirrel
or a filbert
a violet!
should we be owls
I am a peacock
a few Catkins
& robin
admire me
old Poets
In return
I have gathered
the pretty

Simone de Beauvoir

When I found the bookstore it was raining
and I was out of breath.  You were wrapping books in plastic sheaths. 

Stay forever, if you like, you said, and we slept side by side
in the children’s nook on a sheet of foam. 

Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter made you leave home for France. 

The rest of us were Henry Miller
except for a certain infacility with words, drinking

every afternoon and puking in the parks where
you aren’t to tread on the grass. 

When I followed you to Italy in the spring you said
put down that book and look at the plum trees blooming out the window. 

But when I boarded a train for further east
you wrapped my books in wax paper because you said

I would do harm to them and waved your handkerchief 

bursting into tears that were impossible to read.  You loved
tragedies like Jude the Obscure

so years later I avoided you by refusing
the books you had buried yourself in. 

Another Niagara

I can tell you about Niagara though I’ve never been
Where waters
Which should be disappointing but isn’t
My honeymoon. I know what you want to say,
Light on the falls
But the rocks pulverized at the edges are still rocks
The imagination reveling in those places it feels
And everyone doing it and we didn’t want to be left out
With such fervor is a bright mineral green
At dawn, I find myself wandering the perimeter
At least based on recent calculations
Where I’ve never been
It ends up in my eyes
For one thing, it’s so big, and so famous and unnatural
And my hair a blond so platinum it looked white
They went over any way possible
I’ll tell you why I really care about Niagara: I went there
In an ecstatic nineteenth century engraving
I could feel a giant lens going off
Blinding was the adjective I was going for.  Lovebirds,
Old French fur settlements
But also into countries, of course
I’ve only imagined myself there like a figure
Like other canyons (grand) and valleys (Yosemite)
Give me a break! But is was the middle of the century
And I tell you about Niagara
The mist is too thick to be mist
Radiant with salt it leached from rocks far away
Amorous, though looking back now, I didn’t have a clue
None of those numbers like Niagara are precise
And you could buy postcards, magnets, toy bears
What love was all about.  Not until I met him and we made those plans
Or a Canadian or anyone with enough money to travel
And everything is in black and white even the rainbow
Wilderness lovers feared would become
Just outside the safety platform by the falls while making out
If you are an American you approach from the East
I hold my hand toward it and turn to my companion
It was already too late, the crowds were prolific
I’m not talking about my husband, but you probably guessed that
We’ve all been here before
Maybe even in my lungs
Fifty thousand years from now the falls will slide into Erie
And we were young and sex seemed to follow us like a hot cloud. 
But it isn’t History I want to tell you about
In which the falls look bucolic and even bigger than they are
New Niagaras, scarring the innate sublimity of the West.
The truth is, he’d gone kind of cuckoo, he said it was the war.
Maidens in the spray
One is meant to imagine emerging from all this collapsing wonder
Puffing out his presidential chest
Which is why we decided to go through with it.  I was sick
In terms of North and South
And perhaps here would be an appropriate place
All of America wanted to go to bed with me in a red dress.
Since, after all, this is a tourist destination and this, yes this
With whom I long to share nature’s glorious face
Inside a mirror.  But it didn’t matter because by now
I’d probably turn your stomach if you weren’t prepared
It’s easy to get there just don’t
But he has vanished into the foliage
Like a canoe, after all that erosion, with no tourists
For the kind of vision I had become.  But anyway, as you know
Five people and seven thousand people have died in the falls
And the sound of the falls makes me foolish and afraid
Emitting cheers like the sound the spray used to make
After being strangled while my husband is about to go over the falls
Greetings from Niagara Falls! The most Romantic Spot
To insert one of my favorite lines from a poem:
In a stolen boat and my lover lies bloated and smashed in the morgue 
And ten thousand years ago this land was ravaged by ice.

Gillian Osborne is a doctoral candidate in the English Department at Berkeley. Her poems or criticism have appeared in the Believer, the Threepenny Review, Zyzzyva, and elsewhere. She is one of three co-organizers of the Conference on Ecopoetics, which will be held at Berkeley this winter.